Depending on whom you talk to, the current and previous administrations are to blame for IMPACS. While a jury may have the final answer, the indisputable truth is that it was Kenny Anthony’s decision in 2013 to initiate an investigation into the deaths of twelve individuals at the hands of the local police—after a coroner’s court had determined the related police action was not unlawful.
Much of the report by a team of Jamaican police personnel was read on TV by the former prime minister, by all accounts before the DPP’s office had had the opportunity to peruse it. Shortly before Victoria Charles-Emmanuel retired to take a new position in a sister island, the then DPP controversially declared the report next to useless from a prosecutorial perspective. Now it seems the current administration has, since taking office, been quietly pursuing the IMPACS matter that has been at the centre of a 2012 decision by the US State Department and the EU to suspend all assistance to the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force.
Recently, the DPP’s office was the recipient of some US$100,000 from the American government, whether or not under the earlier suspended arrangements of the so-called Leahy law. Earlier the Justice Minister had spoken of US assistance in setting up a local Border Patrol Authority, indicative of a combined effort to keep drug and human traffickers at bay. Meanwhile, according to reliable sources, the Chastanet government has been reporting to the EU on IMPACS-related developments. The cries of human rights lawyer Mary Francis on behalf of the relatives of the earlier cited twelve deceased appear not to have fallen only on deaf ears.
During a visit on Tuesday this week representatives of the European Union expressed satisfaction with the current government’s efforts at controlling the Sisyphean stone now generally referred to as IMPACS.
Said EU ambassador Daniela Tramacere, in response to a media query: “We have been following very closely the developments because we have a strong interest in the government’s follow-up on this very stressful and unfortunate event which took place. We are very happy to have received strong reassurances that due process is taking place. We have listened very carefully to the DPP and are looking forward to further developments in the very near future. We are confident the recommendations [of the IMPACS Report] are being followed. Of course the process is not complete. We came here also to see for ourselves what has been happening. We are satisfied that measures are being taken and we look forward to the completion of this process.”
Prime Minister Chastanet confirmed much of what the ambassador had revealed to media personnel. “There are 25 recommendations in the IMPACS Report,” he said, “and we have acted on most of them.” Not only had a new DPP been appointed since he took office, Chastanet said, but his office staff was also being beefed up. He spoke of other relatively recent improvements to the local crime-fighting machinery: for one, the re-opening of the forensic lab at Tapion that had for some three years been inoperative.
The question arises: Will Chastanet’s efforts fall under the umbrella of “corrective steps” hinted at by Kenny Anthony in his famous 2013 address to the nation? Will the actions by the new government be sufficient to persuade the US government to lift any time soon his sanctions imposed almost five years ago? By all that was heard in the corridors of power following the prime minister’s top-level meeting this week, there seems to be a new light, however small, at the end of the IMPACS tunnel. No doubt the vast majority of the RSLPF membership will be pleased. Presumably, so will Mary Francis and her long-suffering clients!